SMS: It May Not Be Elegant, But It Delivers

A Norwegian telecom proves that the simplest development platform may be the most elegant for mobile devices.

Remember when romance was defined by songs on the radio dedicated to the one you love? Sure you do. But what does that have to do with mobile and wireless?

The answer lies with Telenor, a Norwegian telecom that has devised a way to make money off of consumer-focused, value-added mobile applications with relatively few development costs.

Last month, Telenor Mobile Interactive, a Rockville, Md., subsidiary of Telenor, rolled out the latest iteration of a wireless messaging service that allows broadcasters to deliver value-added audience services to mobile devices. For 50 cents, fans of Fuse, a New York City music video network that bills itself the "nations first all-music, viewer-influenced" television network, can key their dedication requests into their cell phones, BlackBerries or other mobile devices, and then tune in to see their dedications stream along the bottom of their TV screens during Fuses "Dedicate Live" program. At the risk of dating myself, I remember using rotary dial phones to accomplish similar feats on Top 40 radio.

Fuse isnt the first network to avail itself of Telenors messaging platform, and its not likely to be the last. For nearly a year now, ABC Daytime has used the service to draw soap opera fans deeper into its melodramas by offering subscription services that alert fans to whats coming up on their favorite soaps via text messages.

What interests me here isnt so much the application as the way in which its accomplished—using the text messaging capabilities built into mobile devices. Much of the buzz about developing value-added mobile services has been diminished by the difficulties of bringing content-rich applications like games and video to the multitude of device formats that populate the mobile landscape.

Telenor simply uses the SMS (Short Message Service) capabilities built into those devices to deliver services that are high on value, if thin on content. SMS simply streams text messages of up to 160 characters to a destination. Its simple. But, hey! It works, and its here now, ready to be deployed for whatever message you want to send.

Next page: SMS as killer app platform?